Books such as "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron (the book that got me into acting) talk a lot about synchronicity, which basically means things appearing to go magically right.
Every so often I experience such amazing synchronicity.
Today I went to The Crystal in Docklands. The quickest route was to change at Canning Town onto the DLR to go one stop to Royal Victoria. Imagine my chagrin when I found that my Jubilee Line train stopped one stop prior to Canning Town, at North Greenwich. Grrrr.
Then I looked at the tube map. There is a new line on the tube map connecting... North Greenwich and Royal Victoria. Huh? I looked more closely - it's the new cable car connection. So I hopped off and went on the cable car to work! And once I'd discovered it, I did it on the way back too.
How fantastic! If my train hadn't stopped "too early" I would never have found this out.
I’ve always liked doors. On holiday in Tunisia my holiday snaps were mostly of doors. I did an art project of nine door photos in a square.
When we moved into our current flat, it got personal. Although we are in a one-bed flat, we have a fantastic front door, all of our own, because of the way that the terraced houses were converted.
Every so often I see a better door. Look at this beauty!
Women in “rational dress”
After seeing a reference on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to the contraceptive diaphragm as designed by Marie Stopes, I realised that I didn’t know much about her and headed off to Wikipedia.
Marie Stopes was rather controversial - she was in favour of birth control as a feminist, but also as a eugenicist. She most believed in birth control to prevent to decline of humanity from over-breeding of the poor.
Even more interesting than Marie is her mother Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, an early feminist. Charlotte campaigned for, among other things, rational dress. Rational dress meant clothes for women that allowed freedom of movement and no medical repercussions - outfits of the time included restrictive corsets that damaged internal organs and heavy skirts that rendered women pretty useless.
Rational dress was resisted by society for tens of years. It only finally took off after women got the vote, in the roaring twenties. A woman wearing bloomers in 1890 might well have despaired that she would ever be accepted as normal. And yet today women take the wearing of jeans and other comfortable clothes for granted.
Counting up the other victories that previously seemed impossible - gay marriage, abortion and a black American president to name a few - perhaps we can take hope when times don’t seem progressive enough. The future is much more likely to resemble an Ursula Le Guin novel, rather than The Handmaid’s Tale.
In my Edinburgh Fringe show I talk, in a rather tongue-in-cheek way, about my top tips for acting. When I first wrote the show in 2016, I had four top tips that I wrote out on a flipchart.
When we revisit the show this summer, there are some more that I want to include.
My best, best tip is to do with 10,000 hours theory. I am a big convert to the theory of growth mindset and to the idea that genius is attributable to 10,000 hours of practice, rather than innate talent.
There's a rub though - you need to do "effortful" practice. "Effortful practice" means attempting things that are just outside of your competence, rather than coasting along practising something that you have already mastered.
A great example is ice-skating. Top ice-skaters have fallen on their arse three times as often as weaker skaters. This is as a result of their attempting harder challenges.
The analogy for acting is clear. Top actors are those who have made a tit of themselves in public three times more often than other actors.
I am finding the process of taking a show to Edinburgh stressful. Does that happen to everyone?
The venue (theSpaceUK) has been brilliant, and has sent me a booklet with all the important things to do and the dates by which to do them. They also email me before every deadline, which in at least one case has stopped me missing something important.
I've had so much advice from friends of friends. How to write a press release, how to do digital marketing, when to flier.
And the outcome has been that I've ended up with a big fat to do list that just makes me want to hide my head under a duvet somewhere. And that's even before working on the show itself!
So how fantastic to talk to Anna Sheard this week, who is helping me with my marketing. She loves the show, the understands the point of it better than I do (no really, when someone asks me "so what's your show about?" I just freeze), she has ideas for what to do to get it out there and even better she is helping to actually do the things and lightening my load.
This week, for the first time since I committed to do this, I'm starting to think that it might be fun to do a show. And maybe even to market it.
The thrust behind this post is my surprise that there could be benefits of gender segregation. I wholehearted hate and in no way endorse segregation by gender, race, religion, nationality or any other grouping. This includes de-facto segregation such as faith schools.
I find it a particularly odious idea for gender. Wouldn't life have fewer issues for trans- and non-binary people if we weren't constantly classifying the human race into two distinct groups? I was recently discussing feminision at a CEO conference and I realised that I don't hate men. I'm not even pro-women (sorry women). I just hate gender.
I didn't hate the idea of gender when I was ten and choosing which school to go to. I proudly told my mum that "boys were stupid" or some such intolerant nonsense (sorry men) and that it would be better to go to a school that was all female.
Like all 14 year olds in single sex education, I started regretting this decision four years later. However, something interesting occurred to me when I was interviewed about my school aged 17. The fact that there were no males meant that, within the world of the school, there was no gender division. There were no "strong boys" to carry things - girls had to do it. There was no concept of physics and maths being "boys' subjects" - we had two full physics classes and a further maths class. All female.
Does the end justify the means? Did my school make life better for me, but worse for other people in the gendered world outside? Would I still have been a programmer and eventually a CEO, if I'd had to "fit in" within a mixed school?
The theme of this week has been Not Doing.
A mantra for acting is "Don't act the scene, let the scene act you." I believe in this a lot and try to use it very much in my acting.
Yesterday I was discussing how to make decisions and optimise your thinking with a group of CEOs. I am trying to make more decisions by Not Doing, Not Thinking, Not Planning.
I also had a conversation with a project manager about how to deal with a set of impossible deadlines. Not Doing seems almost paradoxical in this instance. And yet it's what I recommended to her...
1. The women wear shoes that they can fight in.
2. The women wear the same outfits as everyone else.
3. At the start of the series the captain and first officer are *both* female and *both* non-white.
4. The lead Klingon is female.
5. The victim of sexual abuse and torture who is suffering flashbacks is *not* female.
6. My favourite character dies.... only to come back later in the series EVEN MORE AWESOME THAN BEFORE.
7. The only happy couple is same-sex.
8. Women are 50:50 throughout.
9. There are no all male alien races and zero uses of the “sexy but evil” trope.
10. Burnham is culturally a Vulcan, despite being born human. There’s hope for all of us....
Things I have learnt while filming #1 - always check special effects in advance of production.
I’m currently in the middle of shooting nano-budget feature, Nightlens. We’ve had three scenes with extra effects needed.
The first was smashing a whiskey bottle. We had a spare sugar glass bottle but they were extremely fragile and there was a large risk we’d break them before we got to the scene. Then the usual pressure of needing to get the take in two. We did it in one! Phew.
The second was a “cerebral rain” effect. David, the director, wanted to show the falling apart of the “brain construct” that the film is set within by having cerebral fluid fall from the sky like rain. David prepped this in advance including screen testing - it looked pretty good. However what we didn’t do was a full run through - we could only use the cerebral rain in one shot but we hadn’t realised that we would then have continuity errors with our clothing once we had been rained on. In the end the cerebral rain had to be cut.
Last night we shot a death scene. David wanted to show “bits of brain” from the deceased. He had prepped this with bread and fake blood. However we had an immediate panic as Alice (makeup) only had a small amount of blood and David needed pints to soak the bread in. Creativity prevailed and Alice moulded some bits of brain from the wax that she bought to create a scar. This looked pretty awesome.
So two out of three ain’t bad. I really learnt that you just can’t prep enough for anything non-standard. What will it look like on camera? What will it be like when you add actors? What will we do if it goes wrong?
Photo: Kim Hardy
Right now I’m on a rest day in the middle of a two week feature film shoot. It’s my first lead role in an independent feature and I’m here because (in addition to the luck and privilege that I’ve had all my life) I made my own work.
In the summer I’m going to Edinburgh fringe festival with a work that I made myself. All of my best and stretching roles have been in productions that I have engineered. Ever since the fabulous coach Amelie Mettenheimer recommended to me that I do my own one-woman show I have progressed and progressed, making gradually more complex and ambitious work.
It’s been hard starting out as an actor, but it would have been even harder had I tried the conventional route - sitting by the phone and waiting for things to happen.